Dam plan slammed as vague, outdated

GRANT BRYANT IN QUEENSTOWN
Last updated 05:00 06/12/2012
Grahame Sydney
SUPPLIED
Artist Grahame Sydney.

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The Central Otago Protection Society's lawyer has slammed Pioneer Generation's latest effort to retain an option to build a hydro-electric dam on the Nevis River as unconvincing, outdated and vague.

An Environment Court hearing over whether Pioneer should be allowed to retain the right to apply for resource consent for a future "conceptual" dam ended in Queenstown early last month.

The hearing was the latest chapter in an 18-year bid by Pioneer to be allowed to dam or retain the right to apply to build a dam through the resource consent process.

Judge Jon Jackson reserved his decision and instructed lawyers to file their closing submissions to the court in writing.

A key opponent to damming, the Central Otago Environmental Society, made its closing submission - which slates Pioneer's credibility - available to The Southland Times.

Pioneer's asset manager, Peter Mulvihill, was a "generally unconvincing witness" in relation to dam feasibility, or in convincing the court funding of a dam would "ever (be) seriously considered" by his own board of directors, the submission says.

Mr Mulvihill "vaguely" confirmed that the feasibility study for a dam was completed in the "mid-2000s," and "a study this outdated seems barely relevant for the court to regard as a serious project option," the submission reads.

The general feasibility of a dam, as put by Pioneer, was "less than coherent or convincing," the society's lawyer, Mike Holm, said.

The environmental society's membership includes high-profile, well-funded Central Otago artists such as renowned landscape painter Grahame Sydney and poet Brian Turner.

A sub-group of the society, Save Central, received donations for a legal fight against a Meridian Energy wind farm on the remote Lammermoor Range that eventually totalled more than $100,000.

At the time Meridian Energy pulled out of the wind-farm battle, Mr Sydney said the withdrawal was proof that a small group with limited means could win a fight against the Government and corporates.

Throughout the hearing, Pioneer's lawyer Kerry Smith stressed there were no plans for a dam drawn up, and that the size and effect of the dam on the river was so far unknown, other than it would not be built beyond the Nevis Crossing.

Pioneer was merely defending its right to apply to build a dam through the usual channels, Mr Smith said.

Mr Mulvihill said yesterday that Pioneer's research and proposals had shown a small dam was perfectly feasible and the company's own closing submission would address all relevant points of the bid to maintain the right to apply for damming rights.

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